Deaths linked to listeria-contaminated cantaloupes have reached 29, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a total of 139 people sickened in 28 states. So when will the illnesses and deaths connected to this outbreak finally end?
The good news: "It appears to be tapering," says CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell. Still, she said, there's "no way to project when an outbreak is going to be over."
There's little likelihood, Russell noted, that cantaloupes to which the outbreak was traced are still in anyone's refrigerator, given the shelf life of melons. But "you have to understand," she said, "there is a time lag between when someone actually becomes ill and when it actually is reported," as well as an incubation period of up to two months for the illness.
As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, 139 people had become ill with strains of Listeria monocytogenes associated with the outbreak, according to the CDC. That's just six more than the 133 reported on Oct. 24. The number of reported illnesses (based on dates of clinical specimen collection) peaked in mid-September, according to a CDC timeline, about the same time that the voluntary recall of the cantaloupes was issued Sept. 14.